10 December 2006

Temple and State

Since it's almost Christmas, here's a primer on how the 330 million hindu Gods work - yes I'm sure Jesus is one of them.

For non-Indians who don't get this with their mother's milk, hindu Gods(esses) are arranged like a modern democracy. At the top is 'Ishwar' aka 'Bhagwan' who doles out power to everyone else. So Ishwar is kind of like the population that elect the leaders. Of course, once elected, the leaders forget about the people until 2 months before the next elections. Anyway I digress. Under Ishwar are 3 Gods who manage the whole show - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu is in charge of the ministry of education, sports, youth development, medicine, art, all the creative stuff... Shiva is in charge of intelligence, defense, judiciary and all that kinda destructive stuff. Brahma is supposed to keep the balance between the two. Occasionally Brahma's ideas are a little crazy, but they seem to work, for example, he got Vishnu to cross-dress as a woman and give birth to Shiva's baby. The baby was adopted by a childless King and eventually went on to kill a demoness who was causing trouble for the population.

The trinity delegates responsibilities to specialised divine beings... Ministry of Water is headed by Indra - one of the perks of his job is that a flying elephant transports him around. Ministry of Justice is headed by the God of death (appropriately for the times I suppose). His transport is not fancy - it's a black bullock. The war ministry is headed by one of Shiva's sons (no not the Vishnu one... this was a normal man woman son). Another one of Shiva's sons, Ganesh, heads up the Civil service which is supposed to remove all obstacles and ease the process of getting things done. Ganesh is the elephant-headed one and Shiva did not contribute anything genetically to him. Now husbands may think that their wives go to extremes when they fight but Shiva's wife, Parvati, is somehting else. She fought with him and created a kid out of the earth (well... since this is a PG blog I'm not going to entertain other possibilities... but Vishnu springs to mind as somebody who might want to play a prank on Shiva). Kid was very good and kept beating up all of Shiva's henchmen who he sent to console Parvati and eventually Shiva had to show up and behead Ganesh to talk to his wife. Parvati was not very happy that her son died and refused to talk until he came back to life. So Shiva decides he's going to be funny and puts an elephant head on the dead kid... that too a defective, one-tusked, elephant head and brings the kid back to life. To take the joke further, Shiva gives Ganesh a rat as a mode of transport. The elephant head makes Ganesh eat a lot and never again be a military threat to his father. Hmm... maybe Shiva didn't do it for giggles after all.

Brahma has kids too - 2 of his daughters head up the finance and education ministries. He's not as popular with Ishwar for some reason, maybe because he's not as flamboyant as the other two. Brahma kind of sits around, meditates, and doesn't interact with people much. I mean, when he wanted to have kids he just popped them out of his forehead and stomach.

Vishnu's more accessible to the people because every now and then he disguises himself and lives among the population, doing Robin Hood types of acts (politicians of today note - no AK47 weilding bodyguards for protection either). For instance he helped Manu (the Indian Noah) during the flood, got rid of several dictators as well as military leaders who got too uppity with their weapons (as Parasurama). Not to mention all the women... 16,000 wives during just one disguise. Yup, Vishnu does get around. Very flamboyant.

Anyway the population can go to one of these ministries to get their jobs done... and there are more of them every year... for instance now there is an actual temple that people pray in before going in for a US visa... so there's a ministry of US visa approvals as well. Can't find the link right now but I swear I read it somewhere. What we really need is a Ministry of sport... we don't have one... we just have a messiah called Sachin Tendulkar right now... he'll be deified in due course I'm sure. We're also missing a ministry of Outsourcing... maybe that's what Jesus is in charge of.

Every good democracy needs an opposition, and this is true in this case as well. The opposition are collectively known as asuras (called demons and the face of evil and hellspawn and other such flattering adjectives by the ruling gods). The asuras love to establish tyrannic dictatorships every now and then, even over the gods themselves. Now it's possible that in the past the asuras were the ones in power. For members of the Zoroastrian religion (Iranian cousin of hinduism - although now in exile in India) the asuras (ahuras) are the good guys. Anyway every now and then Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahma decide to give support to one of the asuras in the vain hope of having them defect and join the Gods, or possibly just to create trouble so that they can come down and be saviours of humanity. (Indian training of LTTE, US training of Afghan and foriegn terrorists to kill Russians, US/Canadian/UK training of Sikh terrorists, Iran's help to Hezbollah come to mind here. All the creations eventually turned back on their creators and had to be put down.) Anyway as soon as an asura gets conditional invulnerability from death, he or she decides to rule as a dictator and eventually gets eliminated by Vishnu or Shiva. Create a straw man, beat him to death and look good in front of the people. Brilliant. No wonder these gods have been around for a few hundreds of thousands of years. The picture is of an asura called Mahabali and Vishnu in one of his disguises sitting behind him, updated for the modern age, of course.

Coming back to the title of the post, in the west there has to be an actual separation of church and state... otherwise this whole one God Almighty thing would make for a dictatorship. In India we don't really need that - the government basically runs like the religion of 80% of the people so democracy is intuitive. This is why ministers can go on religious pilgrimages to drum up votes for the elections and people don't really mind.

Unfortunately the people confuse the leaders for Gods who are not accountable for anything, forgetting that the people themselves are the source of the power.

13 comments:

Crizzie Criz! said...

Vintage Mos, in a way i have not seen many times before.

Twisted DNA, if you ever read this, know you have competition.

be afraid, very afraid!

:)

Neelima said...

The god pantheon all larger than life mirrors the crazy illusion our world is about.

Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Holy Mother of all things miraculous!!! I can't stop laughing Mosi. Somebody stop me...NOW!!!!

You've outdone yourself. Now i wonder if your thesis on viruses is anything remotely like your blog :-)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Mos! Hilarious but I can see the point...

Cheers :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent ! Bravo, Mos ! Education and laughter at the same time, there is no price on this :).
"Jesus in charge of outsourcing" .....
BTW, why is the Warrier's kraal PG again ? Mos, do not deprive the people of well-deserved laughs :D

Mayuri said...

That was a really exhaustive post Ranjee..and a really informative one at that. Good job there!!!

Mosilager said...

criz well twisted's just too funny once a week - I pull one of these once every 6 months so I don't think he has anything to fear. But thanks for the comments, warms the heart and lends inspiration to the fingers.

freespirit :D the thesis is not as entertaining unfortunately... although it is supposed to be read as an 'unputdownable' book. I'll send it to you once it's done and you can decide for yourself... no, scratch that, even I couldn't put anyone else through that particular torture.

amrita thanks !

lova yeah that's what my students say when I teach them... maybe I should work in the !xobile routine somehow when I have to teach next... you make me sound like the russell peters of hiv or something.
oh the PG thing worked very well at that place in the post, but I do have to set an example and avoid being sued for disturbing the moral peace or something silly like that. The comments space is a non-PG free-for-all so no lack of entertainment here.

mayuri yay now I can be happy that I armtwisted you into commenting. Thanks!

Mosilager said...

neelima glad you enjoyed it, need to get on that diet/excercise plan you always talk about.

Anonymous said...

Nice one!! :D

Mosilager said...

thanks strider...

just noticed that lova and desipundit have linked to this article. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

One of the best posts I have read in days !! :D Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your post and learned a lot as well. I hate that. Nice work, M.

Mosilager said...

Sorry everyone, just migrated to beta blogger and it seems to have erased the commentors' names and replaced them with 'anonymous'. Hope blogger brings the names back soon!